Parents often say they’ve looked into getting a diabetic alert dog (DAD) for their child, but were told it is impossible because the child is too young. I suggest that they look into Early Alert Canines. EAC places dogs in families with young diabetic children, as well as with diabetic teens and adults.
I feel strongly about the benefits an alert dog can bring the family of a child with diabetes. How I wish I’d had a diabetic alert dog (DAD) when I was growing up. It would have been so wonderful to have a companion when I wasn’t feeling well and not knowing how to tell my parents what was wrong. I was born with diabetes, and remember crying a lot because I felt so terrible at times. My parents often thought I was having a temper tantrum, when, in fact, I was too young to tell them that I needed help. They had no way to check my blood sugar because the technology hadn’t been invented yet.
Now, we can check our blood sugar by pricking our fingers and using a drop of blood to get a quick read out on a meter. Some diabetics are unable to sense what level their blood sugar may be without checking – this is called hypoglycemic unawareness. They rely completely on the ‘finger stick’ to know if their blood sugar is high, low, or all right. Parents always have hypoglycemic unawareness regarding their child’s blood sugar level. Since they have the responsibility of controlling and balancing their child’s food, activities and blood sugar, they, too, must prick their child’s finger many times a day. And for anyone with insulin dependent diabetes, especially those with hypoglycemic unawareness, nighttime is especially dangerous. The possibility of going too low while sleeping can be life threatening. Parents often set alarms multiple times throughout the night in order to test their child’s blood sugar to ensure the child’s safety.
Diabetic alert dogs are trained to warn the diabetic (or parent of) to rapid changes in blood sugar. The dogs provide this alert day and night, waking the individual if needed.
Early Alert Canines is one of the few organization that places trained dogs with young diabetic children and their families. The dogs are trained to smell changes in the child’s blood sugar levels and alert the parent or caretaker before an emergency arises. One dog has been placed in a family with three diabetic children under age 6. The dog oversees the children at all times. At night, he sleeps in the hallway between the children’s bedrooms, and alerts the mom when any one of the kids’ blood sugar begins dropping rapidly. He then brings her to the appropriate child. In the previous posting, “Rainie Meets a Jedi Knight”, if an EAC dog were present in Jason’s home, there may have been no emergency after all.
As a nurse, and a diabetic with an alert dog, I can only imagine what a diabetic alert dog could do for a parent’s peace of mind, sharing the responsibility for monitoring their child. Looking back on my own childhood, I wish I had an alert dog. The dog would have been able to express what I, as an infant and child, could not. The dog could have affirmed to my parents that my blood sugar was dropping, and that I was not cranky from teething pains, growth spurts, adolescence, etc. In retrospect, I believe my whole family would have been happier.
Please, share your story with me or tell me what you are thinking!